2014 Lexus IS range Review
Chris Miller road tests and reviews the 2014 Lexus IS range.
The latest Lexus offering to take aim at BMW’s benchmark 3 Series finally has the substance to take up the fight.
Offering some serious dynamics, a range of capable power plants and a mix of specifications, each of which with its own distinct character, the Lexus IS range is a technical tour de force with the looks to match.
Longer, wider and lower than the model it replaces, it’s also 10kg lighter. Modern and athletic, the IS lines are clean and muscular, with design inspiration taken from the LFA sports car.
Those influences are evident in the cabin too. The cockpit is driver focused, and there is no shortage of luxury; the only bugbear is a clumsy foot operated park brake.
The front heated and ventilated seats are arguably the best in the business in terms of comfort and aesthetics. There is reasonable legroom in the back, while up front the cabin provides plenty of head and shoulder room in what is essentially a small car.
The boot is a decent size and can swallow a couple of sets of golf clubs.
The multi-function digital dash has all sorts of party tricks, including gauges that slide from one side of the display to the other.
A mouse type device located beside the gear selector controls the big central screen, and while it’s logical in its set up, the execution is a bit clumsy at times, with a steady hand required to navigate around.
Most systems including navigation, audio, phone and car set up are operated through the central screen and the menus can be quite complex.
The steering wheel is chunky and feels great in the hand; the dash layout is elegant and functional. Forward visibility is hampered a little by fat A-Pillars, while a high-resolution camera aids rear visibility; an automatic park function is standard across the range.
High-end leathers and plastics abound in the Lexus IS, and there are many carmakers that could take a lesson from Lexus in how to put a car together. Build quality is excellent, with perfect fitment throughout and no evidence of cost saving or scrimping.
The Mark Levison sound system is spectacular and will happily stream music from your phone via Bluetooth, it also comes standard with a DAB+ digital radio receiver, transforming crackly old AM stations into something you’d want to listen to.
Active and passive safety systems are plentiful with 12 Air-bags, Dynamic Stability Control, ABS, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. Emergency city braking is also available although can be spooked into action by boom gates.
Pedestrians are catered for too with a pop-up bonnet system that needs less than half a second to detect, determine and activate.
The game has changed for Lexus with the introduction of the latest IS range, finally equipping Toyota’s luxury arm with a worthy competitor to take on a segment that has long been dominated by the Germans.
If you are shopping for a genuine sporting saloon, the Lexus IS range needs to be on your list.
Lexus IS 250 F-Sport
Kicking off proceedings at $55,900 for the base IS 250, this is the cheapest car in the Lexus IS range.
The F-Sport (as tested) takes the price tag up to $64,900 and brings an aggressive, sporting look including the love it or hate it Lexus spindle grill with mesh inserts, a body kit and 18 inch F-Sport alloys.
Powered by a 2.5-litre all-alloy V6 developing 153kW and 252Nm of torque, the IS 250 is no slouch, but it’s no ball of fire either, and at times seems a bit wheezy.
Mated exclusively to a six speed automatic, like the engine, it’s carried over from the previous generation IS. It has a reasonable note from within the cabin, and is eager and free revving.
Economy however is far from a highlight, with 11.3 litres of premium unleaded per 100km the best we could achieve.
Considering the 18-inch alloys wrapped in 225/40R18 Bridgestone front and 255/35R18 rear, the ride is actually pretty good, while offering what feels like endless grip.
The highlight of the IS 250 along with its great looks and beautiful cabin is the value it represents.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 2.5 litre V6 producing 153kW and 252Nm
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Economy: As tested 11.3 litres premium unleaded per 100km
Price: From $55,900 before on-roads
Lexus IS 300H
The first hybrid offered in the Lexus IS Range is a great car, particularly if fuel bills and the environment concern you.
Powered by an Atkinson Cycle 2.5 litre four cylinder petrol-electric power plant, combined power output is a respectable 164kW and 300Nm, delivered via an exclusive hybrid only CVT gearbox.
It certainly feels more rapid than the IS 250, but also feels heavier, even though it only weighs an extra 40kg. It will get up and go when required but possess an uninspiring note that sounds more like an electrical appliance than a sporting saloon.
It’s all about economy in the IS 300H, where regardless of how hard we tried, we couldn’t get consumption above 6.4 litres per 100km.
Diesel competitors get smashed when it comes to carbon emissions, with a class leading CO2 figure of 113gm.
On the road there’s plenty of grip and a pleasing ride that deals well with rough stuff.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: Atkinson Cycle 2.5-litre petrol electric/hybrid power-train, producing 164kW and 300Nm
Transmission: Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT)
Economy: As tested 6.4 litres premium unleaded per 100km
Price: From $58,900
Lexus IS 350 F-Sport
This is the drivers pick in the Lexus IS range.
Boasting a lusty 3.5 litre V6 and linked to an all-new and rather impressive 8-Speed auto box, the 233kW and 380Nm on tap is easily exploited.
Quick spinning and smooth all the way to the red line, the noise in the cabin is intoxicating and addictive, and whilst it is 75 kilos heavier than the IS 250 at 1720kgs, the extra power more than makes up for it.
Handling is a highlight, with a bitey front end that’s not easily unsettled by mid corner bumps, and in sport mode, the electronic nannies will give you a bit more leeway and let the back end hang out.
The steering is well weighted and reasonably communicative, while the ride can be a little on the firm side, it’s also reasonably compliant thanks to all-new active dampers and an all-new multi-link rear suspension.
Like the IS 250, the IS350 has a thirst; 11.7 litre of premium unleaded per 100km/h was our best result.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 3.5 litre V6 producing 233kW and 378Nm
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Economy: As tested 11.7 litres premium unleaded per 100km
Price: From $65,000